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Monday, May 24, 2010

The poverty of Tanzania stuns EU Ambassador

This article first appeared in a Kiswahili newspaper (NIPASHE). It was translated for this blog by Jean Burke.
Head of Delegation of the European Commission (EU) in Tanzania, Ambassador Tim Clarke, said he hasn’t see any changes in the efforts made to lift the country out of poverty and bring development to its citizens over the last twenty years.

Ambassador Clarke gave this statement at a conference to stand up for those people who are forgotten, recognized as “marginalized groups”, held in the Social Welfare Institute, in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

The conference was organised by the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) in cooperation with EU, as part of the 10-year celebrations since the Union was established.

The conference aimed to provide an opportunity to understand these groups, their needs, and how they support themselves and how the EU will be able to assist them out of poverty.

“I came to Tanzania 20 years ago, and then left. The agricultural situation which was in the villages at that time, is still the same. We can’t make economic changes and emerge from poverty without an agricultural revolution,” said Ambassador Clarke.

He highlighted things which must be done to remove poverty including identifying groups which are marginalized, to have one vision and raising voices together in making demands and in bringing changes in the situation in the country.

This statement came from the conference by Ambassador Clarke with the Executive Officer of Tamwa, Ananilea Nkya, after speaking with the ambassador during a short break during conference discussions when each participant was able to exchange ideas with others sitting next to them about how to lift these people from poverty.

Firstly, at this conference Ambassador Clarke stated the EU program in the country aims mainly to help the government reduce poverty.

“Are we really doing this? It’s an important question to ask ourselves, are the poor becoming poorer, and the rich becoming richer?” he asked.

He wanted conference participants and Tanzanians in general to explain clearly to the Union and other development partners how they will be able to improve their live.

“This is your conference. Tell us how we and other development partners can improve your lives,” Ambassador Clarke said.

When presenting on the topic of “the way bribes affect the albino woman” at the conference, an entrepreneur from an albino group, Nasra Mbonea, said the kickbacks have been the main source of murders against people with albinism (albino) in the country because some of the wealthy tempt people to carry out these cruel acts.

She said apart from these cruel murders, some people in the community show stigma towards albino as a result of superstition and backward customs, moreover the cream which helps care for their skin (albino), is sold for a high price.

Nasra said stigma against albinos has reached a very bad stage with their bodies and skin being used by some people as a way to make an economic profit due to backward beliefs.

“If Albinos start a business, like selling food, people don’t buy from them. They avoid even giving them a lift in their car out of fear if there is an accident the person who gave them the lift may appear to be taking them to sell or kill them. Currently there is a belief which has emerged in society that, if you go with (have sex) with an albino you will be cured from AIDS or become rich, we are stigmatized a lot,” said Nasra.

She said if she was the President of Tanzania, she would punish anyone who gets a guilty judgement from court for cutting an albino child, by cutting off both their hands, instead of sentending them to jail, which she said only cares for them by providing food free bought out of citizen’s taxes.

When delivering a presentation about "education for the blind in Tanzania ", Shella Gailos said the actual educational situation is not in line with improvements needed because blind women do not benefit, they are faced with challenges of poor quality learning and teaching equipment; some said Mathematics and Science lessons are not taught in secondary schools for the blind.

In her presentation on the topic of “the situation of disabled people in the economy”, an entrepreneur from the Sebo group in Mikocheni, of Dar es Salaam city, Cecilia Masika, said the economic situation of a person with disability is dismal compared to someone without a disability, especially for women, because many of them don’t receive primary school education.

Also, she said employment for people with disabilities is still a problem because of the assumption that they can’t work.

She said statistics of disabled people indicate only 736 people are employed by the government and that, they have visited 51 extraction factories and witnessed only one employed disabled person.

She said this situation has forced many educated disabled people into the private sector, where they fail to support themselves due to lack of education about this sector.

And the musician of The Seven Blind Beats Band, Boniface Kiyenzi, said if he was President of Tanzania, he would establish a Ministry of People with Special Needs rather than the current situation only of a department of social welfare which doesn’t provide complete services because they are not given adequate grants for the needs of the groups involved.

Many participants contributed to this conference and they recommended emphasising education for groups of people with disabilites; including lame people, the blind, the deaf and albinos. Also, to strengthen communication between various service providers, such as courts, police and hospitals.

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